The Yankees drafted Gerrit Cole out of high school in the first round of the 2008 amateur draft.
It took them nearly another dozen years to finally get the right-hander to join the organization as a free agent in December.
And now, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down the sport, both Cole and the Yankees are still waiting for him to make his debut with the team after becoming the highest-paid pitcher in the history of the sport.
For other high-priced Yankees free agents from the past, having the start to their careers with the team delayed would have been hard to take.
“I couldn’t imagine going through that,’’ Mark Teixeira told The Post by phone recently.
Teixeira, now an analyst with ESPN, signed an eight-year, $180 million contract with the Yankees following the 2008 season as part of a free-agent class that included CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in The Bronx.
“2009 was the most anticipation I ever had for any baseball season,’’ Teixeira said. “Signing that contract and having a chance at a World Series, I wanted to get to work. I would have reported to Tampa [for spring training] the next day. For a guy like Gerrit Cole to be home throwing bullpens in his backyard when he should be at Yankee Stadium in front of 50,000 fans, it’s got to be tough.”
Submit questions on your favorite New York teams to be answered in an upcoming mailbag
And there’s no telling when that might change.
MLB this week presented a proposal to the Players Association about what a season might look like if they restarted spring training next month and began the regular season in July, but the situation remains very fluid.
It also remains to be seen if those plans will include games in New York, where the pandemic has hit especially hard.
For now, the most work Cole is getting is with his throwing partners, Aaron Boone and Adam Ottavino — as well as Cole’s wife, Amy — outside Cole’s home in Connecticut.
It’s a much different scenario than the one Mike Mussina was in after signing his six-year, $88.5 million deal following the 2000 season.
“When I went to New York, they were coming off a World Series championship, so there was a lot of anticipation to the season getting started,’’ Mussina said. “If we had to stop it in the middle of March and wait for however long this takes, I am sure it would have been really strange because you know if they do go back this year, it is going to be an abbreviated spring training and you have to get your mind right and your body right a lot quicker than you are used to doing.’’
Mussina actually got off to a bit of a bumpy start with the Yankees in 2001. Despite an excellent performance in his first outing, the right-hander finished April 1-3 with a 4.78 ERA over five starts before delivering another strong season in the AL East.
“It’s strange,” Mussina said of what Cole — and the rest of baseball — is going through. “Especially since you got half of spring training in and you are gearing up and doing everything you are supposed to be doing and it stops. This is a unique situation, sitting around waiting for whatever next.’’
Sabathia, like Teixeira, joined the Yankees in 2008. And like Cole, Sabathia’s first deal with the Yankees — seven years, $161 million — made him the richest pitcher in MLB history at the time.
The left-hander said he believes the fact Cole got some time with his new teammates before spring training was shut down will make it easier for him when — or if — the season does resume.
“I think it would have been worse if I didn’t have a chance to go to spring training,” said Sabathia, now a special adviser to general manager Brian Cashman. “That would have been anxiety. At least he got a chance to meet everybody, get familiar with people and that helps. … By the time I got down there on March 5, he was pretty well integrated with the guys in the clubhouse. I don’t think that will be a problem.”
But there will be added challenges, according to Teixeira.
“Cole is the best in the business because of what he does over a six-month season,’’ Teixeira said. “Now there’s double the pressure on what was already a pressure-packed season. And not just for Cole, but all the Yankees, because of the team Cashman put together.”
While there figures to be added injury concerns if there is an abbreviated spring training and a different schedule than usual, Sabathia is optimistic it won’t impact Cole much.
“I think today’s baseball player stays in shape year round now,’’ Sabathia said. “It’s not like when I first came up and we would take off in the off-season. These guys are ready to go and a lot of them throw year round. I think [Cole] and everybody else will be ready to go. I don’t think it will be a problem at all, especially for him. He is super professional.’’
Credit: Source link